News & EventsWho? What? Where? Why? Read all about it here!

Get the Latest

Latest

BLOG - Three Parent Embryos and the Law

Following a House of Commons vote to allow the creation of three parent embryos, solicitor Cameron Shaw explores what this development could mean with respect to parental rights and responsibilities.

"On Monday 2nd of February, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to change the existing law on IVF, to allow an IVF technique called mitochondrial DNA transfer in order to prevent genetic diseases being passed from mother to child. Mitochondrial DNA transfer does exactly what it says on the tin! But for those of us who are not scientists, what it means in practice is the creation of three parent embryos.

"The science behind Mitochondrial Donation is deceptively simple.  Healthy DNA from a female donor is used to replace faulty DNA in the embryo of a mother at genetic risk. This process will help to prevent the child from contracting serious and life-limiting genetic diseases that pass from a mother to child, such as muscular dystrophy.  This means that the embryo will have genetic material from the biological parents and a third unrelated party. In effect the embryo will have three genetic parents.

"Proponents cite research that indicates almost 2,500 women of reproductive age will be helped by the treatment, whereas those who oppose it claim that the treatment will pave the way for genetically modified ‘designer babies’.

"But beyond the ethical debate, how will three parent embryos affect the law?  It is clear that the law currently governing IVF treatment, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, will have to be amended to permit parents to use Mitochondrial Donation and involve a third party in their IVF. This is likely to take place in the Autumn of 2015. If the amendment is passed, the first three parent children could be born as early as 2016.

"However will all the donors of three parent embryos have rights in respect of the child? This is the $64,000 question. Currently in Scotland any child’s birth mother automatically has Parental Rights and Responsibilities (PRR) for that child."

Will the father of the child have rights in respect of the child?

"The father will have PRR if he is named on the birth certificate.  If the father is not named on the birth certificate he can enter into a Parental Rights and Responsibilities Agreement with the mother which will convey these rights to him. If the mother does not enter into an agreement and the father is not named on the birth certificate, the father would have to apply to court for PRR."

Will the third parent have rights?

"The simple answer is that we don’t yet know. However in a three parent embryo, the amount of DNA from the third parent will only amount to around 0.0054% of the total DNA of the child. Therefore it is unlikely the law would give a donor of genetic material parental rights. Neither is it likely that there will be a system to apply or acquire these rights, such as that for natural fathers as described above.

"Should a third parent want PRR the most likely scenario is that they would have to apply to a court under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Currently under this act any person can apply to have PRR in respect of any child. That could potentially cause upset and heartache for the original parents.

"If the original motivation of the donor is to help parents with a history of genetic disorder to have a healthy child, then this may be an unlikely situation. However, it is still a real possibility, so as with any new legislation we must wait to see what outcomes arise from this change in the law."

GET IN TOUCH


Not sure where to start? Why not just give us a call today on
0131 624 6820 for Edinburgh or 01334 475001 for Fife to discuss your needs.

All fields marked with * are needed

GET IN TOUCH

Want to work with a local, friendly company? Then find your nearest Pagan Osborne office to you below. However, we also work with clients throughout the UK so you can call any of our numbers and our helpful reception staff will be happy to forward on your call to the most appropriate expert to suit your needs.

Edinburgh
Clarendon House
116 George Street
Edinburgh
EH2 4LH Call Us
Tel: 0131 624 6820
Fax: 0131 220 1612
2 Comiston Road
Morningside
Edinburgh
EH10 5QE Call Us
Tel: 0131 539 3333
Fax: 0131 538 7204
St Andrews
106 South Street
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9QD Call Us
Tel: 01334 475001
Fax: 01334 476322
Cupar
12 St Catherine Street
Cupar
Fife
KY15 4HH Call Us
Tel: 01334 653777
Fax: 01334 655063
1 Crossgate
Cupar
Fife
KY15 5HA Call Us
Tel: 01334 656525
Fax: 01334 654119
Anstruther
Pagan Osborne
5a Shore Street
Anstruther
Fife
KY10 3EA Call Us
Tel: 01333 310703
Fax: 01333 311918

CALL BACK SERVICE

Got a question? Fill in your details below and we'll give you
a call back on the date and time you have chosen.